by Nikki Stavile

Toni is a German shepherd. She shares my father’s name. She’s choking on Italian leather shoes and I take her out on the front porch. The utilities man brandishes the shutoff notice. He mistakes the red Fiat X-19 for my father’s girlfriend. The prospective tenant mistakes me for my father’s secretary. In the house, there is a flaming oven, which I mistake for a family argument. My baby sister totters from the half-baked rum cheesecake. I mistake her for my father’s ex. My father mistakes my middle sister for a lesbian. He mistakes me for a Christian. He presents me with a low-cut striped blouse. He anoints my forehead with olive oil. We go to church and press junk jewelry rosaries into one another’s palms. We mistake our father for Our Father Who Art in Heaven. We pray to the Jesus who has taken his hair. He is asleep. He believes he is in a Bond movie. He narrates his adventures and we follow him down the corridor, into the hospital’s catacombs. My father wakes up and mistakes himself for his younger self, because that is easier to do than admit he is dying. He mistakes me for his first crush. We share the same name. We place the garlic bread host in the center of the surgical ward. It wheezes underneath my palms as I cut. My father tells me to mistake it for my mother-in-law. I do not have a mother-in-law. I suggest flowers for the table. We three sisters pull up my mother’s rose bushes and stake one another in the back. We find the crosses are good for our postures. My father informs me that he was mistaken about dying, this time. He had mistaken himself for his father. They share the same name. I leave to start a pilgrimage. I go into the Roman churches. My father’s desperation seeps onto the one-euro candles. He instructs me to never steal from the Church. I exit through the confessional. I mistake every person in the street for my father. The men with their black-winged leather jackets. The women with their sunglasses reflecting heaven.

Nikki Stavile is a second year MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Hollins University. She deals with the dilemma of writing a lot of words and running a lot of miles on a near-daily basis. Nikki’s work has been published in or is forthcoming in Scoundrel Time and Artemis Journal. She resides in Roanoke, Virginia, with her partner and an abundance of Legend of Zelda video games, in a house depressingly devoid of cats.




Image credit: Pixabay


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